Draft Portfolio of Experiments. © UNDP Angola

As we enter our second 100 days cycle, we continue to explore the waste management ecosystem. So, it is time to re-group the troops and get back to action! This time we already have something to start with: our learnings. Our work so far allowed us to identify the following gaps and “room for manoeuvre” in the local waste management value chain:

1.      Final destination – disposal and transformation – Not only are Landfills the most unviable solution, but there is already significant evidence of a growing recycling economy (number of businesses operating, number of transactions, number of beneficiaries) that point to a recycling direction. Although most of these businesses are small and not at an industrial level, and some are not recognized, they are nevertheless a good starting point. For this reason, more mechanisms should be in place to promote and stimulate recycling businesses with different capacities, from facilitating the licencing and regulation of recycling operations, to promoting private sector investments for small scale businesses or encourage public/private investment in bigger industrial grade facilities. Monitoring organizations that are exporting waste is also very important. Exporting waste is legal in the country and it is, to some extent, creating unfair competition for local recycling businesses.

2.      Drop/collection/transport – Currently selective waste containers are not available. Public operators only collect mixed waste and “informal” waste-pickers do not offer enough credibility or legitimacy. The growth of the recycling economy seems enough evidence for the implementation of a differentiated waste system from a public administration perspective, from introducing neighbourhood selective waste collection points to an effective collection/transport service. However, the model needs to be well studied, designed and tested before implementation to avoid the already failed method of buying selective bins and distributing them randomly without an entire system in place. A more centralized and integrated collection model with collection points would also allow for data collection which is not currently available. Even though waste-pickers play a fundamental role in this economy, work conditions are precarious and dangerous, value for work is not fair and regulated, many are children and elderly, most collect on bare foot with no means of transport and there is a lack of adequate and safe storage conditions at some “aggregators” points. In this sense, to imagine a selective waste collection system for a city of around 8 million people using the current “informal” model would not be effective. So, we should find a new way to re-channel this workforce framing it within an integrated collection/transport/recycling system.

3.      Generation – Increase in the amount of waste separated at source would increase the amount of viable uncontaminated waste eligible to be recycled. Separation at source might only happen once a RELIABLE selective collection service is in place with specific incentives. Environmental education and pollution awareness are overarching issues, meaning that citizens and private sector need to have access to more information, not only around sustainability and pollution but also on the overall operation of the waste management system. The information (collection companies, recycling companies, location of collection points, sale prices, data on waste generated) should be centralized and easily available to all actors. The private sector, as the main generators of recyclable waste should have a bigger role in supporting the implementation of strategies and solutions.

In the many meetings and interviews that we held, we have heard that selective waste collection will not be possible in Angola for particular reasons: there is no destination for the materials collected, the population is not educated on how to separate waste and there is no transport system. Through mapping the ecosystem, we have found some of these assumptions to be right, to some extent, while others have already been proved to be wrong. Selective waste collection in Angola does not effectively happen for various reasons, however they are not irreversible factors. They can be changed and that’s what we need to focus on.

 We now find ourselves facing a portfolio of experiments filled with question marks and we will need to apply specific tools in order to strategically analyse the viability of each experiment, according to different variables like time, partners, relevance etc... On the bright side, this will be a great time to land hands on some of the tools developed by our colleagues from the Accelerator Labs network. And that is what collective intelligence is all about!

We have already sensed some obstacles to overcome along the way, such as distrust towards experimentation and conflicting interests between partners. From an organizational perspective we are also navigating internal protocols as well as finding a balance between small scale tests and longer-term ongoing actions which are more aligned with traditional expectations. Just on the other day, we were pitching about how useful it would be to test the viability of a single use plastic ban VS single use plastic fee at supermarkets before moving on directly to implement a law on one or the other. We also discussed how placing selective waste bins at a market as an example would generate insights on how to eventually implement selective waste collection at scale, as a system. We can also mention the possibility of testing public waste collection points in specific neighbourhoods based on the existing economy or centralized deposits based on the aggregators model.

There is no shadow of a doubt that there is a lot of room for experimentation and we must gear up, finding the right partners and start moving forward towards development!

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